Emily Talmadge salutes Lisa Haver, who wrote an article in a Philadelphia newspaper asking why the billionaires who play with public schools are never held accountable. She recommends that all of us should “be like Lisa,” speak up, stand up, demand that billionaires keep their hands off our public schools with their half-baked ideas.

Emily has the advantage of having gone to school with Mark Zuckerberg. Maybe she can answer a question that has bothered me whenever I see a picture of him. Does he own any shirts that are not solid color T-shirts? Is he pretending to be Steve Jobs? Does he own a shirt with buttons? Has he ever worn a tie? None of these are necessary, but I imagine him at a black-tie dinner wearing a T-shirt. Just because he is richer than everyone else.


Emily writes:

Sixteen years ago, Mark Zuckerberg and I sat across from each other in Latin class at Phillips Exeter Academy.

A few years after Exeter, I began teaching public school.

Mark, meanwhile, invented Facebook and became a billionaire.

Now, the one who never worked a day in his life in a public school (Mark) is crusading nationwide to “remake” public schools.

Without bothering to hear from those who actually work in those schools (I wrote Mark an open letter a couple of years ago that was picked up by a number of popular media outlets, but never heard back), Mark and his wife are striving to build a public school system that in no way resembles the intimate, discussion-based, mostly tech-free education (with no more than twelve students per class) that we got at Exeter.

Chan and Zuckerberg – along with a long list of other billionaires like Reed Hastings, Laurene Powell Jobs, Eli Broad, and the Waltons – are currently pushing an education agenda that puts an electronic device at the hands of each student, tracking their every move with “personalized learning plans” that will warn you in big red letters if at any time you fall off-track and aren’t meeting the standards as you should be.

There’s a giant profit motive behind this frighteningly technocratic vision, and anyone who cares about public schools should be fighting tooth and nail against it.

Unfortunately, based on the speed at which schools are adopting Mark’s “Summit Personalized Learning” program and the amount of money his LLC is throwing at public policy initiatives, Mark and his billionaire buddies are currently winning this war.

Most of the billionaires who want to reshape education want to make it completely reliant on technology, even though they don’t send their own children to schools like that. They prefer the kind where an experienced teacher sits at a seminar table with a dozen students and discusses what they are learning. The Waltons are different; they are not in the tech sector. They want to bust unions, and they have found that funding charters is the best way to achieve that goal.

Be like Lisa, she writes. Blow the whistle. Call foul. Speak up. Now.